Friday, September 28, 2007

Coming Up for Air

Yesterday morning at 5:00 AM MST, I took Emi Hokaida, our Japanese exchange student, to the airport for her return trip home to Kumamoto. This sentence alone should alert any reader to what you might have already life has gotten even crazier since my last post.
Emi (pronounced like the award...emmy) is a wonderful 16 year-old student from the city of Kumamoto, in Kumamoto Prefecture on the southern island of Kyushu. For the past 16 years, the top students from her school "audition" for a chance to come to Missoula. Big Sky High School here in Missoula hosts the students. Amazingly, they are only in the states for one week. We picked her up Saturday morning after a small ceremony during which her principal (who doesn't speak a lick of English)gave a rather long and impassioned speech of thanks. She arrived at 1:00 AM that morning, slept for a few hours and then had her first breakfast outside of Japan, consisting of scrambled eggs, pancakes, bacon and clam chowder. She seemed to like her breakfast, especially the clam chowder. Emi has studied English for 5 years, but anyone who has learned another language will agree there is a big difference between learning and speaking with someone of your own tongue and actually trying to converse or understand the language as spoken by a native. So, we struggled the first two days with communication, but Emi was so delightful it did not matter.
They study alot more and harder courses in Japan, not a surprise to me. I was surprised to find out how busy her schedule really is and how much time away from home and family she spends on school work. She generally leaves her home on bicycle before 7:00 AM and arrives back home after 8:00 PM, 6 days a week. She also plays field hockey (not a very popular sport in Japan but Emi revels in the uncommon), helps with chores and enjoys spending time with her family.
We packed as much in 5 days as we could but were super happy to discover that the things she liked the most involved spending time with us and doing fun and simple stuff like making pizzas, visiting with neighbors and meeting our friends. On the last night she and her classmates put on a farewell dinner and read to the host families what they loved about their trip...breathing fresh mountain air, drinking coffee, riding in a car, dancing, meeting nice people, going to a football game, etc.
We had a blast.
In other news, my Ultimate Frisbee team won two tournaments and finished second in two others since my last post. We also won the Big Sky sectional and advanced to the Northwest regional championships to be held north of Seattle next weekend. It is our 4th trip to regionals in a row and we're hoping to qualify for the national championships again. We've been practicing real hard and everyone is more committed than ever to reach the championships.
In August we traveled back to the Midwest for my annual trek to Holland, Michigan and to spend time with my family. Liam loved being with Grammy and Grammpy O and getting to hang with his cousins, aunts and uncles. The kids loved the fair, although we chose to go on the hottest day of the year (literally) and Chris's fiance Nichole got heat stroke.
Life really is one big blur these days and it's affecting my memory and ability to keep up. I'm always tired, and I seem to be paying dearly for my years of foot loose and fancy free shenanigans. It's definitely different and definitely worth it.
As I've said dozens of times, I will try to get back on track with posting.